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Missing Washington

After several days, we continue to enjoy Fatty’s handsomely provisioned bar. For dinner, Fatty suggests Royal Lochnagar, Bowmore, Caperdonich, Glenfarclas, and Linkwood Private Reserve, I tell Fatty that his selection is inspired; Juan says that it inspires him to meet some women, urgently, and he wants to know where we are. We have been travelling for days and we are dringlingly behind schedule, so I hope we have reached America. Albert checks the time and says that, in theory, we should be over Washington. I tell him that his theory is stupid because it is stupid to make up a theory when you can check the facts. Fatty stumbles to the window, to report our position, and says that we are flying over a big white house.

I tell Fatty that it is not a big white house; it is the White House, where the king lives. Rory says that it is the White House, where the president lives, America, he reminds me, is not a monarchy, it is a republic, Americans don’t have a king or a queen. Fatty says that, if they don’t have a royal family, meals in America must be boring. Juicy gossip about kings, queens, princesses and princes adds spice to a meal, but glaze-inducing tattle about politicians makes the average diner go into a stupor. Fatty adds that, because they are brainless, he always serves calf’s brains to politicians; he says it boosts their intellect to that of the average cow.

Rory says that, after years in the desert, with only a deaf camel to speak to, he misses intellectual conversation, and he asks me for my opinion on Vācaspatimiçra’s Tattvabindu. I don’t know what Rory is talking about, fortunately, Rory did not ask for an informed opinion; we have been talking about calf brains, the name Vācaspatimiçra sounds Indian, Tattvabindu sounds like a curry, and, although I don’t know Vācaspatimiçra personally, I imagine that, like every Indian person, he makes a wonderful curry, so I tell Rory that, in my opinion, Vācaspatimiçra’s curried calf’s brain is a delightful meal, and, when I can get it, I always I enjoy it. Juan says that he enjoys it when he can get it as well, but I know that Juan is not talking about curry. Rory say’s he isn’t talking about curry either. I tell them that, for people who are not talking about curry, we are talking about curry a lot. Fatty says that he when he cooks brains for American diners, he does not curry them, because American’s brains are hot enough already, it would be perilous to make them hotter.

George says that he does not want to think about eating brains, and he crawls to the window, to be sick. Fatty is offended and says that raw sheep’s brains steeped in fermented brain-juice is a great delicacy, Juan suggests that George’s vast consumption of Vintage Caperdonich Founder’s Reserve has made him feel delicate. I tell George not to be sick on the White House, it is not a dignified way to announce one’s arrival, but George reports that the only thing he can see that resembles a large white house is the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. I inform Albert that, evidently, we have missed Washington; in fact, we are over Montmartre, which proves that his theory about being over Washington is stupid.

Albert says that the theory may be wrong, but it is not stupid. In theory, he informs us, a bee might fly very well, whereas, in fact, it might not be able to get off the ground, nevertheless, the theory itself is perfectly reasonable. George points out that a theory that bees can fly is pointless, because bees can fly. Albert says he chose a bad example of a good theory, I tell him that a good example of a bad theory is his theory that we are over Washington when, in fact, we are over Paris.

Rory falls off his stool. Juan says that that is normal after a bottle of Royal Lochnagar Family Reserve, this is true, but, when I fall off my stool as well, I realise that we are tilting. I tell Rory to look out of the window to see what is happening, but Rory says that he is scared of heights. Fatty says that anyone who is scared of heights must be stupid because you can’t avoid heights, they’re everywhere, clouds and mountains are high, trees are high and there are high temperatures, high table, high game, highly appreciated nibbles, and serving boiled pig’s head to the Rabbinical Council, which, he says, sadly, was the height of stupidity.

George says that he is only scared of heights when the ground is below him. I tell George not to worry, as we are turn upside down, the ground will appear above us, and the height will decrease as we descend. George shouts that there is something to worry about, instead of floating over Washington we are crashing on Paris. I tell him that it could be worse, we could be crashing in the sea, or into the middle of a desert, somewhere without anything to eat or drink, but Montmartre, I remind him, is full of wonderful restaurants.

Fatty says that it is lucky we are crashing in France, rather than America, because French cuisine makes American cuisine look like cat food. I tell Fatty that this is not fair; at least Americans do not live on slugs and toads. Fatty says that the French do not live on slugs and toads, they eat snails and frogs, I tell Fatty that I can’t see the difference, Fatty says that it is easy to tell the difference, frogs can jump, snails can’t. I know this, but, before I can pursue the subject, George says that, compared to French wine, American wine tastes like swamp water. Juan says he can’t see the problem, in America and France, the women are incomparable; to celebrate, he orders Vintage Glenturret, Tobermory, Benrinnes, and Glendronach Private Reserve, Fatty serves cervelles de veau a la poulette, then, brainless or not, we offer toast after toast to women of all nations, then, to offer due respect, Juan and I inflate our bagpipes and, while I play ‘La Marseillaise’, Juan plays the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’, until, after everyone begs us to stop, we launch in to ‘Scots Wha Hae’; after dancing the Highland Fling until we’re too dizzy to stand, I decide that the captain needs our help, everyone agrees, so, yelling with excitement, we shout ill-informed, contradictory, advice and crawl around in panicky confusion, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary

Calf’s Brains with Poulette Sauce

Ingredients, 2 calves’ brains. For the sauce: half a pint of stock, one and a half ounces of butter, one ounce of flour, two tablespoonfuls of cream, the juice of one lemon, one shallot, finely-chopped, one teaspoonful f finely-chopped parsley. For the rice border: one pint of white stock, four ounces of rice, the yolk of one egg, salt and pepper, nutmeg.

Method, wash the brains in several waters, put them in a stewpan with as much water as will cover them, add a few drops of lemon-juice and a teaspoonful of salt. Boil up slowly, then remove the brains, drain well, and cut them into thick dice. Wash the rice, blanch and drain it well, and cook in the stock until tender. Melt the butter in a small stewpan, fry the shallot until lightly browned, stir in the flour, cook for a few minutes without browning, pour in the stock, and stir until it boils. Simmer the sauce gently for ten minutes, strain, return to the stewpan, put in the brains, cram, remainder of the lemon-juice, and re-heat gradually. When the rice is tender, season it with salt, pepper, add a pinch of nutmeg and the yolk of egg, cook for a few minutes longer, then turn into a well-buttered border mould. Shake the rice well down, in order that it may fill every part of the mould, then turn it on to a hot dish. Add the parsley to the contents of the stewpan, dish the ragout in the centre of the rice border, and serve hot.

Time, about one hour, sufficient for six or seven persons.

Recipe by Isabella Beeton, 1861